During his appearance on 60 Minutes, President Obama declared:
I intend to be president for a while and once this bill passes, I own it….I’m the one who’s going to be held responsible. So I have every incentive to get this right.
This argument tells us plenty about Obama, but nothing about the merits of the “reform” he is pushing.
First, the argument proves too much. Every president “owns” every major policy he pursues — a war, a major tax cut or hike, whatever. Yet presidents frequently make bad decisions on major policy issues. The notion that we should defer to Obama on this issue, or cede to him any portion of our own judgment, because he will be held responsible for the consequences is laughable on its face.
Second, Obama’s argument is wrong as a general matter. We’re the ones who will be stuck with the consequences of a government-dominated health care system. Obama, presumably, will receive prompt, top-notch health care no matter how much difficulty the rest of us have.
Third, Obama’s argument is wrong as to the specifics. Under the Democratic proposals, it will take time before the worst effects — government domination and the consequences of a huge increase in government spending — are felt. By that time, it will not be possible punish Obama for having gotten this wrong.
The telling thing about Obama’s argument is what it reveals about him. First, one would have hoped that the importance of the future of health care in this country would provide Obama with “every incentive to get this right.” His statement suggests, though, that he is fully incentivized only by the political calculus.
Second, it is disconcerting that Obama would frame the discussion in terms of his own personal ambitions. To some extent, this is like Sen. DeMint’s unfortunate statement about wrecking Obama’s presidency by defeating this legislation, a statement that Obama jumped all over. But Obama’s statement is worse because it suggests a narcissism that is unbecoming, and perhaps dangerous, in a president.
Obama seems increasingly unable to resist the kind of specious arguments a fairly bright first year law student might make in a crunch.